Myths about Au Pairs: Au Pair = “Hottie”

by cv harquail on April 6, 2009

What is it about the term “au pair” that triggers salacious comments from people who should know better? What do you do when someone says something rude about au pairs as a concept?

This question popped up a few weeks ago for HostMomToBe:magazine photo as mask hiding identity.jpg

… There is this one very annoying situation that I really could use some help with. So here it goes, I am going to ask a question that seems to be the first time asked on this wonderful blog:

How can I handle the lurid comments (eg., Is she hot?, Better watch out for your husband!) made by immature men and women (brothers, neighbors, anyone really) when I tell them we’re getting an au pair?!!

This really creeps me out and angers me! Please help, I can’t be the only one!

what other dads expect an ap will be like.jpg

HM2B, you’re NOT the only one.

Try telling people you have a “Swedish Au Pair”, who is tall and blonde and pretty like ours!  Believe me, this happens to other host parents too. I’ve had this photo saved for almost a year, waiting for this post. The filename for this photo? “What men think au pairs look like.” If only that were completely funny, and not also kindof icky.

So moms, how do you handle this one?
And host dads, presumably you get this question too… but maybe with a few more ‘wink wink, nudge nudge, elbow elbow’s. …

What do you say?

[[Please note that we have a separate post for discussing the myth of “The Fox in your Henhouse.”]]


Calif Mom April 7, 2009 at 12:48 am

Oh boy, I’ve gotten these comments — usually from male colleagues! I don’t really respond — I let that awkward silence inform them that they stepped over a line. Or if they are clueless about the social gaffe they just made, I quickly change the subject so the conversation doesn’t devolve into stories from their own misspent youth (Brazilian girls they have known is a popular theme). Don’t have a good zinger but would love to have one at the ready.

Interestingly, I’ve also had women say to me that there is no way they would have an au pair because they don’t want to invite a fox into the henhouse, so to speak. (I think those women need to work on their marriages! Maybe I’m naive, but the thought never even occurred to me until some clueless cad made a snide remark.)

Nicole April 7, 2009 at 3:25 am

Great topic! Try being a mom who works 24 hour shifts and leaves her husband alone in the house all night 6 times a month. From the comments I get, you would think there aren’t any kids here and it is a wild party, lol!

anon mom April 7, 2009 at 5:19 am

I am a regular commenter, but I want to be anonymous for this comment.
Honestly, before we consider interviewing an au pair, I make sure she is not my husband’s “type”. My husband asked me for that, to avoid being uncomfortable in his own house. Truth is, males are attracted to young pretty women. Civilized married males will do nothing about it, but we have to make sure that we will be comfortable with a potential au pair in all aspects.
My husband is a good man, we are religious, have very conservative sexual mores – just to give you a fair background.

Maya April 7, 2009 at 6:10 am

This is an interesting topic. To be honest, the thought of the ‘fox in the henhouse’ has never crossed my mind. My husband and I never even had any kind of conversations about this. As it turned out, neither our first now our second au pairs are his type. Our second au pair dresses and presents herself conservatively just because that is the type of person she is. Our first au pair had an arsenal of clothes that she had to pour herself into with minis barely covering her butt, tops with the cut down to her bra, and always a midriff showing. She also thought she was all that and a bag of chips. As a result, my husband and I have spent a fair amount of time making fun of her look. To say that she was not my husband’s type would be an understatement. Her style has never bothered us and we never have said anything to her while she was here. However, when our next au pair arrived with her more conservative style, I can say now that I like that more. Not for any of the reasons that may have to do with my marriage, but I think I like not have to guess if I will see undies if she bends down to pick up a toy. I think for the future, I will be mentioning to our au pairs that a somewhat conservative dress would be appreciated.

On a more serious note, I have never received any comments from others regarding having an au pair in the house with regards to any kind of inappropriate behavior. However, I have dealt with people thinking that this is just a live-in nanny arrangement and having to explain that no, I cannot have her watch kids this weekend because she already worked all her hours. Also, if I happen to mention that something is not working smoothly with an au pair, it seems to be common advise to just ‘kick her our and get a new nanny – they are a dime a dozen’. I am at the point where I do not discuss au pairs outside of my family or other host families (it helps that both my best friend and my boss have au pairs).

D April 7, 2009 at 6:21 am

Our next au pair actually is very pretty. She’s darling.

Only thing we have considered is that for sure we will get the ridiculous comments from others. So My hubby & I have decided we will handle it in adult fashion to be courteous to our au pairs respect. After all this is “our” daughter we are talking about. We will not have anyone talking about our daughter in this fashion ever. We have a daughter & we wish to treat our au pair the same as we do for ours.

If a husband can’t be respectful to an au pair in a way that is appropraite for a young girl. Then a family shouldn’t have au pairs at all no matter the looks.

These girls & especially their parents…deserve respect. :) As a host family you are the role model to serve that. Even if that means telling the people being stupid & saying dumb things to stop saying those things & why. Say “this is my daughter, I’m sorry…we don’t think of her like that” Or as a host mom, realizing your husband is one that should not be in this position and removing yourself from the program completely is another possibility.

I love beautiful people, in fact some of my best friends are amazingly beautiful much more than I. As a confident host mom & amazing husband, we have firm values. This is a subject, that is definitely a good one. We love these girls as a daughter. A hottie context is so yucky. These girls are amazing & deserve so much more than this.


Allison April 7, 2009 at 8:39 pm

I get comments about this all the time and my husband and I even joke about it. I don’t take it too seriously and just laugh it off…I mean you can only get so much out of that material and it gets old really fast…..

Franzi April 8, 2009 at 12:32 am

@ Maya, i think it is fair to ask your au pair for appropriate clothing while she is on duty, such as t-shirts with no cleavage down to the bra. also, there are families who ask their au pair to take out or cover piercings or tattoos while she is on duty.

if you mention this during the matching process, it is absolutely ok and should be respected by the au pair prospect.

Euromom April 24, 2010 at 10:06 am

That’s funny because my au pair – darling that she is – has a few piercings (including facial ones) and a couple of tattoos as well.

But I will say in her first application – she stated she had some piercing and tattoos and also that she was aware that some people don’t like them.

I loved her honesty – it just showed her level of maturity – to know that by admitting this upfront would immediately see her passed over by alot of families and to do it anyway showed amazing strenght in character and honesty.

Rayann April 9, 2009 at 2:40 am

We have an incredibly beautiful au pair, and I am completely fine with that. In fact, she and I have an ongoing (completely good natured) battle over who gets possession of the “skinny jeans” in the household. We share clothes, went bikini shopping together, and tease each other about who finished off the ice cream when no one was looking.

It would never have even occurred to me that she might be the “fox in the henhouse” – even though she isn’t much younger than my husband, our relationship is more like a sister or cousin – she’s part of our family – I think for everyone involved, the thought of her being involved with HD would be icky to say the least.

As for the comments people make, I just laugh it off. When we were interviewing, my response was always “Oh don’t worry, I’m only interviewing ugly ones.” That always seemed to make light of the subject and turn it in another direction.

Au Pair to Be... May 3, 2009 at 11:45 pm

I find it interesting how little has been said about the way au pairs must feel about these types of lewd comments. While the Host Parents may be able to ‘laugh it off’ because they have a secure relationship, just think how uncomfortable and vulnerable a young girl must feel upon hearing this sort of thing, especially when she is in a foreign country, with you, her Host Family, as her only support network!

I think it’s important for Host Parents to make sure that your au pair does not feel threatened in your home. If people make these sorts of comments in her presence, it is important for you to jump to her defence, and make it clear that you see her ‘as a daughter’ or ‘as an employee’ or whatever you like, but just make sure she knows you will not have people talking about her in that way, and that you certainly do not think about her that way.

I only say this because as a future au pair (Australia –> France), this is one of my bigger fears. As a slender, blonde, blue eyed au pair to be, these are the sorts of comments are absolutely the thing I dread, along with the possibility of wandering eyes/hands that he comments imply. So basically, just because your au-pair might be attractive, doesn’t mean she is a sassy, husand-stealing minx. More than likely, she is a little scared (at least at the beginning), and just wants to feel safe in her new home. So keep that in mind.

CV May 4, 2009 at 4:35 pm

the reason no one has mentioned how au pairs might feel is because the question was about when this is said to the host parent, when the au pair is not around. Keep in mind that this question has come up because a host parent wanted to figure out how to protect other people’s bad attitudes about her au pair and au pairs in general.

Most of the time, someone with rude thoughts would *not* say them in front of the au pair… people who make these comments know enough to realize that it would be rude to say to the au pair herself. Also, from the psychological standpoint of the person making the rude statement, saying something like this is intended to be an invitation for the host parent to engage with them in an illicit, behind-the-back conversation about how hot the au pair is.

I am pretty sure that most host parents jump to their au pair’s defense whenever inappropriate comments about the au pair’s body, social life and sexuality are made. I’ll think more about this for a future post.

Anonymous October 6, 2009 at 12:39 pm

If you don’t like the way the au pair girl dresses, purchase a “uniform” (like a blouse and a skirt) and require her to wear that.

Theresa October 6, 2009 at 2:46 pm

I’m sorry, but I’m not sure if that is the best idea. You can ask her not to wear too short skirts etc., but I don’t think any au pair would want to wear a uniform, but maybe that’s just me.
If my hostfamily asked me to wear a uniform, I would feel very unwelcome and not as part of the family at all.
I’m very laid back and would do pretty much anything for my hostfamily, I’ll help out with everything and help them as much as they need me, but I would not wear a uniform.

Emma October 6, 2009 at 3:44 pm

“If my hostfamily asked me to wear a uniform, I would feel very unwelcome and not as part of the family at all.”

I agree. If I was asked to wear a uniform I would feel insulted and outcasted. Especially if it were a blouse and skirt (honestly, if asked to wear precisely that I would assume sexism and/or sexual harassment because, and I understand that it was just an idea and probably not meant to be so scrutinized, it seems highly impractical for childcare (who would climb a slide or play in the sandbox in a skirt?) But then, maybe I’m jaded from my own work experiences. In any case jeans and a proper tee are a better suggestion, and thats what I wear. And I do think it absolutely acceptable to require APs to be adequately covered during work hours and/or when in the house.

Emma October 6, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Oh, and because of my comment above when I said “who would climb a slide or play in the sandbox in a skirt?” I’d like to apologize if my comment offended anyone who does wear skirts while tending children regardless if for religious, cultural, or personal-choice reasons. I was speaking from my own experiences and let that cloud my word-choice and tone.

NewAPMom October 6, 2009 at 4:11 pm

As a host mom I think it would be weird and insulting to ask an au pair to wear a uniform and I would never do that. But maybe the person who suggested it works as a nurse or something and does wear a uniform herself and sees it differently.

Anonymous December 26, 2009 at 4:31 pm

Hello again, forgot to tell my view of an “au pair uniform” or “or pair clothes”. I know a person who some years ago when she was a younger girl (she was in her late teens/early 20’s ) worked as a live-in maid/nanny girl for a rich employer. The children were 4-5 something when she begun. She had to wear a “uniform”, consisting of a white blouse, a black skirt and apron. She also had to wear a name tag on the blouse, and to tie her hair back in a ponytail.

She hated it (blouses and skirts was among the worst things she knew), and I have seen some pictures of her and I would say she looked somehow like a waitress girl (white blouse, black skirt) and it wasn’t the most comfort. It’s the same for a waitress girl, running around wearing a blouse and a skirt when serving. But I’ve never heard any waitress girl complaing serious, even if they hate it.

So purchase clothes like those (blouse and skirt), show them to the au pair girl and say:
– You can at least wear appropriate clothing here, if not you will end up wearing this “au pair girl uniform” (or “au pair girl clothes”).

AP2B February 14, 2010 at 1:41 am

As a future au pair who would fall into the ‘pretty’ category, I’ve often wondered if that might hurt my chances of being selected by some families. I’d love to think that all wives weren’t insecure about having a young and pretty girl living with them, but realistically I don’t expect that. I’d be curious to see a discussion from host families about the influence, if any, an au pair’s physical appearance has on the matching decision.

Mom23 February 14, 2010 at 11:27 am

I have never had a problem having a “pretty” au pair. We have had some drop dead gorgeous au pairs. I have had problems with au pairs who have low self esteem and feel the need to flaunt their looks, wear too much make up, etc. Now I look for someone who seems comfortable with him or herself.

HRHM February 14, 2010 at 5:20 pm

I actually tend to choose skinny APs. I know this sounds terrible, but I come from a fat family and work very hard to feed my kids carefully and keep them a normal weight (as well as DH and myself). So I want an AP who is thin and fit. I look for “sportive” APs and so far, all of my APs have been really attractive. I don’t find it threatening at all – I know and trust my husband. Besides, we’re 40 and they are young enough to be our daughters.

PA AP mom April 22, 2010 at 1:41 pm

Our last au pair was a clothing model part-time in Germany and she was gorgeous….at least on the outside. I didn’t have a problem with it, but then again I am a mature, professional woman with a lot of self-confidence.

I don’t think most host families chose an AP based on looks. Our new au pair is beautiful, inside and out.

Anonymous HM February 14, 2010 at 5:34 pm

My DH and I are both 30.. I would not feel comfortable hosting an AP that was 25 or 26, regardless of her appearance, as I might feel awkward being host mom to someone who was so close to my age.. At the same time, I’m honestly not sure I would feel comfortable hosting an AP who resembles a swimsuit model either. Maybe that makes me insecure, or maybe just honest!

AnonHM-Europe April 22, 2010 at 5:07 am

We had a quite ugly Au-Pair (with additional skin-problems) for some weeks. She was totally incapable of taking care of the children, was unable to identify spots of danger, (letting our 2 yo daughter escape out of our garden, letting her play with knives…) so she had to leave after about 4 weeks. During this time I found out that I don’t enjoy having to see this ugly girl every meal at my table. I didn’t like to look into her face because of her uglyness. So my husband and I decided to take only pretty girls in the future – and now I enjoy them when I them at the meals, I like talking to them and looking at their faces. It would never occur to me or my husband that the girls were treated any other than a big daughter. Usually the girls parents have about our age – or are even younger, so it’s quite natural.

Anonymous April 22, 2010 at 10:09 am

Are you for real?! I don’t think it’s possible to be any shallower. I’d like to see what you look like.

HRHM April 23, 2010 at 10:43 am

CV – are you sure this isn’t some kind of troll post?

cv April 24, 2010 at 10:10 am

Actually, I did wonder that… but when comments come in from people whose first language is not English, sometimes they don’t read they way the writer intended.
I kept this one up in part because I think that the sentiment it expresses (however awkwardly) is real — some people are more comfortable with folks that seem ‘pretty’ to them. Research shows that good looking people get more job offers, more pay raises, get the benefit of the doubt in ambiguous situations, and on and on.
I bet that au pair candidates who are less attractive probably get fewer families calling them. … which may be a benefit for families who look beyond the physical layer, for a candidate who is lovely as a person. cv

Euromom April 24, 2010 at 10:12 am

Totally agree – must be a troll post – I think the best course of action is to ignore AnonHM-Europe’s post. We all know who the real “ugly” person is!

chithu September 7, 2010 at 8:56 am

As some one from a traditional South Indian family, i dress very conservatively. Let’s say, wearing a spaghetti strap on a hot day is my idea of wicked ;). I made clear during interviews that I am a traditional person and hoped my host parents will not mind. You have NO idea how many families in London said they wanted me to start as their au pair that very day, lol.

Another interesting thing I noticed – my host parents wanted me to look presentable when I joined them for dinner in the evenings. I am not used to grooming my hair or putting make up every day. In India, “makeup” is not something that’s put on a daily basis. If it’s so, it won’t last for more than an hour, as the humid and sultry heat will wipe it off. But in London I changed my attitude, because it was clear that dinner together on the table is quite a grand, serious affair for the English and they prefer not to see oily skin and ratty hair when having their food!

Katie PAP April 22, 2010 at 8:46 am

Wow that must have done wonders for her self esteem.. letting kids play with knives is another issue altogether I would get a rematch instantly. Sure have personal hygiene rules but discriminating on peoples look..

Anonymous April 24, 2010 at 5:26 pm

I shared this with an LCC and she told me that it is just shocking what people will say about their aupairs. I, too, suspected that this was a joke but she told me that she had actually heard someone once say ” send me someone pretty … my husband cannot stand to look at any ugly girl. ” So I am not sure that the earlier post was a sick joke or a language problem, either. There are nasty people in the world and some of them, unfortunately, are host parents in these programs we so value for many reasons

chithu September 7, 2010 at 5:04 am

i have worked for three families so far. Three bald men in their 40s, and they all were really great host dads – they had never, EVER behaved in a bad way with me. They were always polite, courteous and helpful. In fact, in my last family, the mom went abroad for 2 weeks and I stayed alone with the dad and two kids. It was a perfectly peaceful, uneventful time.

BTW, I am not an unattractive person :).

Now for the bad news – only two of the aforementioned three dads were faithful to their wives. One of them used to bring a woman to the house during the day time, and when he did, he told me to leave the house – he will say that he is home so he will pick up the kids in the afternoon and I can have the day off.

Working in such a situation quickly became bad, even though I loved the kids. I only lasted 2 months there any way, before making my escape from his wife – a corporate b#$%h who treated me like a maid (but it doesn’t excuse his infidelity). Even if she had been nice, I doubt I could have told her that her hubby was cheating on her.

chithu September 7, 2010 at 5:07 am

so, there it is – men with no morals WILL cheat, with or without the au pair!

Anon September 7, 2010 at 7:47 am

As someone else above said, I’m also a regular commenter, but for the sake of my comment, I would prefer to remain anonymous.

I am an ex au pair, for what I thought was the most lovely, caring family. I’d been in contact with HD for weeks before my arrival, and we seemed to get along great. Then I arrived, and found that they didn’t need an au pair for child care. They didn’t need an au pair for housework. What HD wanted was a pretty little blonde under his roof who was always accessible – day and night – for his every whim.
He did things to me that I still have nightmares about a few months after returning home. I am now scared of being alone at night, and I’m scared of the dark.
Their location, and a natural disaster at the time, made it impossible for me to leave straight away, and HD was well aware of that. I was stuck between a rock and a hard place, with no way out. I did eventually manage to leave but not until long after too much damage had already been done.

He actually did this to a few au pairs who were there before me, but he threatened them, so they didn’t do anything or tell anyone.

I, however, have reported him to the police, and will probably have to face him in court if they find sufficient evidence to press charges.

The worst thing is that HM does not believe a word I said, as ‘her husband would never ever be unfaithful to her’.

Taking a Computer Lunch September 7, 2010 at 10:38 am

I am very sorry that this happened to you. I do hope your agency is supporting you in your efforts – both legal and emotional.

Anon September 7, 2010 at 10:50 am

Unfortunately, I was not with an agency as I was not an au pair in the US, and did not know of any agencies existing with the country I was going to. So I’m doing it with only the support of my family, but the emotional and financial sides of it are draining.

As a HM, how would you react to my charging him, if he was your husband? There is a pre-teen in the house whose safety, I feel, is as compromised as mine was whilst there. But HM won’t hear a word of it, and I’d never forgive myself if something happened to the child. I’m now on the other side of the world, without any way of looking out for her, or removing her from said situation.

JJ Host Mom September 7, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Oh honey, I am so sorry this happened to you. Reading your story made me feel ill.

Personally as a HM, if my husband had done this, I would want you to charge him. I’d feel awful about it but I’d feel awfuller for you, having gone through it. I would feel conflicted about believing the word of an AP I had known for a few weeks over the word of my husband, so you’d have to have evidence to back it up, but if you had that, I’d support you. Especially if I had a pre-teen who was at risk for having the same thing happen to her.

Anon September 8, 2010 at 12:20 am

Thank you JJ Host Mom, if I ever au pair again, I hope I get HP’s that are as lovely as all you ladies (and men) on here.

I don’t really have evidence of anything he did… The bruises, cuts and other injuries are long gone, except for when he brought his fist down on my shoulder and did permanent damage to the muscles – I can’t lift it up high anymore – but he could just as easily blame that on something else.

HM was away on business for most of my stay there, leaving me in the house with HD and two toddlers daughters. Most of the time she took her pre-teen with her, because it’s not his child, so there must be some concern then, right? I just worry that although HM might be in the house or in the garden, she will not always be right beside her child, and it only takes a few minutes for something awful to happen.

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